This Road Trip Route Leads to Some of Colorado’s Best Hot Springs — Including Natural Riverside Pools and Vapor Caves

·3 min read

The 800-mile Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop passes by 23 of the state's best hot springs — and incredible foliage.

<p>Nick Kogos/Courtesy of Visit Durango</p>

Nick Kogos/Courtesy of Visit Durango

Most Colorado visitors start and end their trip in Denver, but the most scenic part of the state is far from the bustling state capital. In the southwestern corner of Colorado, tree-covered hills lead to towering peaks and hot springs bubble up from the Earth like magic. And many of the state’s best hot springs — and most vibrant fall colors — can be found along the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop, an 800-mile driving route that leads to 23 natural hot springs.

Earlier this year, the iconic route added three new destinations to its roster: Durango, Carbondale, and Saguache County. To experience the full loop, which now passes through eight destinations, you’ll want to give yourself a week — or two. And if you can align your journey with the changing of the seasons, all the better. 

Travelers starting their trip in Denver will want to head south toward Buena Vista. Between the neighboring towns of Buena Vista, Nathrop, and Salida, you’ll find five hot springs (and plenty of hiking and mountain biking). Standout hot springs at this stop include the creekside pools at Mount Princeton Hot Spring Resort and outdoor, rock-rimmed pools at Cottonwood Hot Springs.

<p>Courtesy of Durango Hot Springs</p>

Courtesy of Durango Hot Springs

From Salida, continue south to Moffat, an area known for its towering peaks and its open, star-filled skies. Make sure to spend at least one full day at Valley View Hot Springs, which is clothing optional and has trails leading to hillside hot springs with views over the valley, and the tranquil Joyful Journey Hot Springs. Have kids? Continue south to Splashland Hot Springs in Alamosa.

Next up is Pagosa Springs and the neighboring city of Durango. The Springs Resort in Pagosa is set along the river and is fed by “the world’s deepest geothermal aquifer,” according to the Colorado Tourism Office website. And the newly renovated Durango Hot Springs Resort & Spa has brand-new Japanese-inspired soaking tubs and a total of 38 pools.

<p>Courtesy of Durango Hot Springs</p>

Courtesy of Durango Hot Springs

As you begin to make your way north, you’ll pass through the tiny mountain town of Ouray, home to the kid-friendly Ouray Hot Springs Pool and The Historic Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodging, which has a vapor cave carved into the rock. Continue to Carbondale, home to Avalanche Ranch Cabins & Hot Springs, and onto Glenwood Springs, a town with more than its fair share of hot water. For the best Glenwood has to offer, check out Iron Mountain Hot Springs, which sits right on the banks of the Colorado River, and the spectacular vapor caves found at Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves.

The last stop on the loop is one you won’t want to miss: A visit to Steamboat Springs, a ski town known for both its fall colors and its natural hot waters. Your best bet is to make a trip to Strawberry Park Hot Springs, which is nestled along the river in a valley surrounded by tree-covered hills.

A full rundown of the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop can be found here, and more information on each of the eight destinations on the loop can be found here.